A Survivor's Story
I am a breast cancer survivor. On Christmas Day 2000, while in the shower, I
found a lump in my left breast and a sense of dread overcame me. Anxiety struck.
I knew I had cancer and I was scared. I was diagnosed with stage two breast
cancer sometime in late January. I live with my youngest daughter and her two
children and the weeks between diagnosis and surgery were filled with appointments
for tests and scans. It was an emotionally and physically challenging time
for all of us and, to say the least, each day became more and more precious
On February 19th, Dahlia
Sataloff, MD, performed a lumpectomy on my left breast. I received
the first of four chemotherapy treatments on March 8. During this
time, a breast cancer support group called Facing Forward had been
formed. I joined and met a compassionate, caring, courageous and
wonderful group of women. They are true heroes in every sense of
the word and I love them all.
After being hospitalized with a low blood count and high fever for
a few days, I received my last chemo treatment on May 17 and started
a series of thirty-odd radiation treatments. On February 20, 2002,
I was back in surgery again but this time the tumors were found to
be benign. I am so happy to be alive. I have been surrounded by angels
and have since become a volunteer at Pennsylvania Hospital. This hospital
saved my life. If I can find a way to give help, hope and courage
to others, than my own talents have not been wasted.
I am a 13-year veteran with the City of Philadelphia's police
force and, as a hobby, I have spent the past 11 years competing in
over 50 rodeos across the country. My specialty is steer wrestling.
Some people say that working the streets of Philadelphia and being
trampled and bruised by steer makes me a survivor. But standing here
today in front of you makes me a true survivor. On November 4, 2001,
I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease stage 4b with bone marrow involvement.
My life should have been shattered, but it wasn't. I had two
emotions well up inside me – determination and will power.
I was temporarily moved to a desk job in Center City, which was close
to home and within walking distance to the hospital. I remember every
morning looking in the mirror right before I left the house and saying
to myself that I was still a cop. There were days I could barely stand
but I had a family of 5,000 in blue that would not let me fall. I
went to work everyday. They saw my good days and my bad days, but
in my mind at least they saw me.
My initial chemotherapy included a cocktail of drugs called ABVD.
I had 16 treatments every other week for eight months. I refused to
allow myself to be sick. Instead, I put my energy into living. I traveled
a lot and saw places I had never seen. I always gave myself something
to look forward to; I visited my family almost every single weekend.
I later learned that my initial chemo did not completely kill the
cancer and I had to go on salvage chemo followed by a stem cell transplant.
My determination became stronger yet. Shortly before the transplant,
I went to another rodeo competition and won the All Around Cowgirl
title for the weekend – the first time in 11 years that I won
That night the rodeo clown came up to me and told me he had just
found out that his brother had cancer and he had no idea what to say
to him, until now. He would tell his brother a simple story about
a cop and a competitor who wouldn't allow herself to stop living.
The stem cell transplant was successful and I recently passed my six
month CT scan with no new growth. My message to everyone is to never
give up. We live in a society where we are given choices. It's
not just about living, it's about how we choose to live. I choose
to live and live well.